Sunday, October 25, 2009

VODKA as a cocktail base spirit by 1914

The misconception that "Classic Vodka Cocktails" are a product of the 1960's or later continues to circulate. For this reason, I am including in this post an article in the Town Talk column of a 1914 issue of the Oakland Tribune, wherein "Cocktail Bill" Boothby, who some might call the Jerry Thomas of the West, includes Vodka in an anecdotal recipe of his.

There is no mention of Vodka in Boothby's 1891 cocktail guide, Cocktail Boothby's American Bartender. Nor is there mention of Vodka in his 1908 guide, The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them, and as far as I know, his 1930 and 1934 editions of the latter guide, renamed Cocktail Bill Boothby's World Drinks and How to Mix Them, are little more than reprints produced in response to the demand for the then scarce manuscript, as well as marking the occasion of Boothby's death.
I suggest that somewhere between 1908 and 1914, Boothby, upon hearing about Vodka, and being an owner/operator of his own saloon, took it upon himself to import some small quantity to introduce to his customers. Another possible scenario is that Boothby received a bottle from some Bon Vivant who collected it while traveling through the Crimea or some such place. Whatever the case, by 1914, not only did Boothby have Vodka, but was familiar enough with it to include it in a published anecdote/ cocktail, which also suggests that he expected his readers to be familiar with it, at least in name.

Less than 7 years later, in 1921, Vodka cocktails are published for the first time in a cocktail guide, The American Drink Dictionary, printed in France, though comprised of new and favorite American drinks. Among them were the Haughtinesse, Voslau, Zarnohoff, and Yokohama. Of these, only the Yokohama seems to have garnered any lasting international success, largely due to it allegedly having been invented on an international cruise ship based out of Yokohama. Incidentally, Yokohama continues to have a very competitive cocktail culture.

The Yokohama's reputation continues to resound, at least in some pocket of the world, and inside a can no less: yes, Asahi, famed producer of Japanese beer, also produces a canned "Yokohama Cocktail Yokohama Fruit Dance."

YOKOHAMA COCKTAIL (1 of several variations)
1 dash Absinthe
1/6 Grenadine
1/6 Vodka
1/3 Orange Juice
1/3 Dry Gin
Shake & Strain

The Voslau's origin must have something to do with Bad Voslau, a locale in southern Austria, and coincidentally the birthplace of Austrian Wine.

VOSLAU COCKTAIL (derived from multiple recipes)
1 1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz White Creme de Menthe
1 Dash Maraschino
2 pinches Cayenne Pepper
Shake & Strain

The origin of the Haughtiness(e) cocktail is even more elusive. In fact, I haven't a clue about where it comes from.

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Italian Vermouth
1/2 Tsp Absinthe
1/2 Tsp Curacao
2 Dash Bitters (I recommend Orange)
Stir & Strain

I can't even find an instance of the word "Zarnohoff," much less a cocktail of that name. It could be the Voronoff, which is simply equal parts Rye & Vodka. Or perhaps the Zaranes, a concoction of Vodka, Apry, and a healthy dose of Angostura. I may have to enlist Greg Boehm for source material on this one. Stay tuned for an update.

And now for The Peace Cocktail, (which could actually refer to The Conference Cocktail, devised in Russia in 1905. More on that later.

Oakland Tribune, November 22, 1914

Latest Cocktail Is Neutral

“Cocktail Bill” Boothby, the literary mixologist of the Palace, was listening to a heated argument between a German and a Frenchman in the wineroom the other afternoon. In the interests of neutrality he asked the debaters to try the latest cocktail of the hotel. They were willing. While they were exchanging angry words and threats Boothby mixed a cocktail with the following ingredients: English gin, Russian vodka, German kummel, Hungarian apricot brandy, Italian Vermouth, brandy manufactured in Ghent, Belgium, and a dash of French Amer Picon. The German and the Frenchman stopped their argument long enough to try the cocktail. They liked it and ordered another, and then a third, and then a fourth. Their argument became less and less heated.

“What do you call that new drink?” asked the German.

“Peace cocktail,” replied Boothby.

The German and the Frenchman departed arm in arm. —Town Talk

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